Messenger marketing strategies & the music industry
Behind the Artist is a Q&A style interview series featuring the people behind the artists; the marketing heroes who normally stay in the background. They are the ones who help artists build a brand and a strong online presence. We talk to music marketing experts and ask them to share their thoughts about digital strategies for artists, marketing and messaging. They share their thoughts, expertise and their vision for the future.
Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m director of Green House Group, a boutique marketing company that I started a few years back after a life in traditional PR and journalism.
We’re a very hands-on team of music fans that look after anything which might fall under online marketing, handling the global digital campaigns for artists and events. We work with major label and independent artists, including The Kooks, Laura Marling, The Libertines and festivals like Secret Garden Party, End Of The Road and 2000trees.
What is the background to the company you work for?
Green House started just around the time “social media” was becoming a term that people used. I think one of the first things we did was design MySpace profiles and had to convince managers that their acts really needed to be on this internet thing.
Now we work with artists developing their whole online strategy, from making videos and building playlists to helping them craft posts, engage with their audience, run competitions and ultimately sell records and tickets. We’re kind of a one-stop-shop for acts wanting to do something meaningful online with their fanbase, but might not have the time or experience to deliver what’s in their head.
As well as the agency side of things we’re now starting to create our own in-house creative projects like a print publication and music based pub quizzes. As I’m answering this I’m heading down to The Libertines hotel in Margate which is going to become a true bohemian arts space in the coming year, and a project we’re really proud to be a part of.
What does your day-to-day look like?
As company director I oversee most projects from a creative and planning perspective while keeping an eye on what’s next, and hopefully pushing everything forward to nose-ahead of the competition. There’s a lot of graft, chasing emails, nuts and bolts, being reactive, re-working things and really that’s all down to the team here who keep everything in motion.
Helping artists build a strong brand through digital marketing is an important part of your role. How important do you think it is for musicians to reach and connect directly with fans online?
Too many people hide behind the wall of social media and forget that it’s meant to be social — to be interactive…
It’s vital for breaking artists to connect directly with fans. If you’re not engaging in that, you don’t have much business being in the music industry at all. If you want to see people at your shows and hopefully buy your record or merchandise, you have to connect with them.
When you’re starting from the ground up, and somebody takes the time to acknowledge you and your music, and wants to engage with you… at the very least thank them for it. A simple “thank you” can turn a passing curiosity into a lifelong fandom, but more importantly turn that person into an ambassador for your music.
Artists used to HAVE to get involved and motivate their grassroots fans, calling them up personally on the phone and telling them when the next gig was, or going round pubs with flyers. Now too many people hide behind the wall of social media and forget that it’s meant to be social — to be interactive.
Even the biggest artists in the world engage with their audience, whether it’s Taylor Swift paying off somebody’s student loan, or Charli XCX taking fan calls on her Angel Phone. Speak to your fans and understand them. You get out what you put in.
Not even all the big guys and gals at major labels understand all the new technology so by staying ahead of the curve you can take advantage of new waves that often create backdoors into the public and industry.
Do you think it’s important for musicians to be innovative in their uses of technology? If so, why? Are there any great examples of innovation that you can highlight?
For me one of the biggest innovations in recent years has been the direct-to-fan movement. You can’t rely on social numbers to gauge where you’re going as an artist, but you can rely on how many records you’re selling and what your income is. It’s the music BUSINESS.
Artists taking control of their distribution has been a remarkable innovation over the last decade with platforms like PledgeMusic especially giving you a shop front, distribution and transparency in where all the money is. I’ll be honest in saying that not even all the big guys and gals at major labels understand all the new technology as it’s made available, so by staying ahead of the curve you can take advantage of new waves that often create backdoors into the public and industry.
There’s so much on offer out there, like for instance if you have 10,000 subscribers on YouTube they let you use their studio space for free. I’ve seen The Luka State make a weekly, Gonzo style TV show from there which racked them up hundreds of thousands of views over the first series run. Why aren’t other bands doing that?
I’ve seen mid-sized bands make millions of Twitter impressions on launch day using Thunderclap, but it’s still not a campaign norm. No idea why. Some of the new technology, like the super big bands asking fans to earn the right to buy tickets through share mechanism apps, I think feels a bit off though — so only use what feels right for you.
One recent innovation is the ability to build and engage a fanbase on Facebook Messenger. Do you think that Messenger marketing is a good way for artists to connect directly with fans?
Absolutely. Facebook are changing the goalposts all the time, and the days of it being a marketing platform are fast becoming pure nostalgia. At least for those without big advertising budgets. The ability to begin migrating fans from Facebook to another, more sustainable and directly accessed channel is paramount over the next year or two. Messenger apps by 2020 will be so commonplace, but right now there’s a chance to make an impact by being an innovator within the medium.
What can musicians use a Messenger channel for?
Firstly think about the user experience. Don’t go into it thinking, “what’s the quickest way I can sell something on here.” Make a fun, human, interesting and genuine exchange with good content first… then figure out the end points of those conversations and offer up some options on where to go next. Buy a record, look at tour dates, stream a song or sign up to a mailing list?
Use the messenger apps to create a little journey a fan can go on, and then at the end ask them what they want to do. The more variations that journey might have, the more likely they are to come back again too. Then from that first interaction you’ve got them hooked, so use the broadcast function to send regular updates that aren’t published anywhere else.
Make a fun, human, interesting and genuine exchange with good content first… then figure out the end points of those conversations and offer up some options on where to go next…
Always give a reason to be following, and bespoke content is a great reason. Make your messages worth opening and you’ll build trust, from which you can slowly pepper with more sales driven initiatives and incentives.
How does Messenger marketing differ from “traditional” social media posts in your opinion?
For me it’s that journey. A standard post is so two dimensional — “I’m saying this about that so click here or do this.” The messenger apps ask you what you want to do — what are YOU interested in and how do YOU want to interact with us today?
It’s more conversational with a call and response, which feels so much better as a user experience. Harder to get right, and I’ve already seen a lot of duds and dead ends on some early channels set up by record labels and forgotten about. But definitely worth spending some time getting right, and then keeping them updated for God sake.
What are the marketing advantages for artists in having and using Messenger?
With Facebook edging into being a paid-for only platform for pages, this offers a very tangible way to sustain and grow your audience from there for a small monthly fee without bowing to Facebook’s algorithms. You can really learn to understand your fans and what they’re interested in, then provide tailored messages to segments of your audience based on those interests. The more personal an experience feels, the better and more connected that fan is going to feel.
Do you think a Messenger channel can help artists build their brand online? If so, why?
In time this could move Messenger into something resembling WeChat in China, which is one central app to rule them all. This could very well be the centre of all social activity going forward, so get on it now and grow with it. Be an innovator not a spectator.
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